Weekend Picks ~ 12-2-2016


This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

I’ve heard well meaning believers use every one of these…

5 Christian Clichés That Need to DieMatt Smethurst
weathered tombstone with RIP
Sometimes, in our desire to simplify truth, we can trivialize and even obscure it. And to obscure the truth is to tell a lie.

Here are five popular Christian clichés that aren’t biblical and therefore need a memorial service…

While the heart behind these five mantras is often genuine, they’re all unhelpful for one overriding reason: They are unbiblical.

Image result for chip and joanna gainesTwo more reactions to Buzzfeed & Cosmopolitan’s attempt to smear Chip & Joanna Gaines…

Buzzfeed is willfully ignorant about the teachings of biblical Christianity.David French

BuzzFeed Wants To Destroy Chip And Joanna Gaines For Being Christian And Wildly PopularHans Fiene

We’ve all got to get better at this…

Being ‘Wise as Serpents’ in the Era of Fake News
Jesse Carey
Unlike traditional media—like TV, radio and print—the barrier of entry to “publishing” and “broadcasting” news is extremely low. Anyone can set up a website (that looks like a legitimate journalistic operation), and say whatever he or she wants.

By creating sensational fake news, the “sources” aren’t simply building audiences, they are shaping ideas, political opinions and sometimes destroying reputations…

Like it or not, we now all have the responsibility to vet the information we share. Or, even if it’s unintentional, we can become complicit in a lie…

Before sending out His disciples, He told them to “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

If Christians take these commands seriously, we can help stop America’s disease of fake news.

This is so, so good! Please don’t miss this article…

What Persecuted Syrians Can Teach Us About American PoliticsMindy Belz
For those Christians who in recent months feel they’ve awakened in another country or walked into a foreign church, how do we chart the way? The Bible is full of wilderness experiences, and so are the testimonies of today’s suffering church.

Bishop Audo, like many other church leaders I have met in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, has held on in the face of mortal danger not by retreating from life but by engaging in service—to his church, his community, and, yes, to his enemies. The wilderness may be harsh, but it can also be a place free from distraction, a place to rekindle first loves, a place to learn (again) how trials and suffering conform us to the image of Christ.

As Bishop Audo’s life grew harder during Syria’s descent into civil war, he poured himself all the more into his community—officiating at weddings while bombs exploded a few streets away, or feeding countless homeless. He redoubled his efforts to care for Muslims, feeling that they needed not simply his help but his witness, his otherness.

This video is definitely worth 5 minutes of your time…

“This should be compulsory. There would be no such thing as extremism in the world if people knew their heritage like that.”

“It’s easy to think there are more things dividing us than uniting us. But we actually have much more in common with other nationalities than you’d think. We asked 67 people from all over the world to take a DNA test, and it turns out they have much more in common with other nationalities than they would ever have thought. ”

If I hosted a Food Network show…
Wrong Hands

Luke 1:57-80

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 1:57-80
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us[a] from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
No questions today. Just meditate on verse 68.
Consider the amazing mystery it contains.
Carry it in your heart during the whole “Christmas Season.”

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people.”

Thursday Picks ~ 12-1-2016


This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

“Pray for Chip and Joanna and their church. The cultural inquisition is coming…”

Are Chip and Joanna Gaines ‘Cultural Heretics’?Trevin Wax
Image Credit: HGTV
Cosmopolitan and Buzzfeed recently discovered that the church Chip and Joanna Gaines attend…is led by a pastor who does not support same-sex marriage and who believes that homosexual practice is a sin. In other words, Chip and Joanna Gaines attend a historically Christian congregation on the matter of sexual ethics.

…there is nothing newsworthy about a Christian church teaching that male-female marriage is God’s original design and that newly invented definitions fall short of God’s intention for human flourishing.

What is newsworthy is the religious undertone of the Cosmopolitan article. It reads like a heresy hunt. The magazine has “uncovered something many fans will likely want an explanation for—a startling revelation that has left many wondering where Chip and Jo stand.”…

The Cosmopolitan article says the revelation about the Gaines’ church is startling due to “the diversity of their audience.” If diversity were truly valued, then it wouldn’t be controversial to have a traditional Christian on an HGTV show…

…pray for Chip and Joanna and their church. The cultural inquisition is coming.

Here are a couple of other notable responses to the same articles:

BuzzFeed Targets HGTV Hosts for Attending Christian Church -Gabriel Malor

10 Questions For BuzzfeedSamuel D. James

This has got to be the best new TV family drama in years…

Why we’re obsessed with the hit show ‘This is Us’
Russell Moore
Maybe we find ourselves brushing away tears because we so often wonder in our own lives about whether to stew in our regrets and our missed opportunities or whether to see, behind all the mess, a sign of grace.

“This is Us” is a pro-family show. The family is presented as a positive force for good. But this good is grounded in complexity, and even in forgiveness.

We see the plot behind the plot, but the characters don’t. They learn to show mercy when they realize how much they don’t — and can’t — understand, even about themselves. Maybe we love “This is Us” because this, in fact, is us.

This is a wonderful piece of writing…

Hooray for the new individualism! Now we can all be ‘prejuvenated’ sex objects until we die.  –John Robson
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars.
Man, I really have to start getting out less. Otherwise I’m going to run into hordes of people “prejuvenating.” At least, that’s what it said on a piece of newspaper I was using to start a fire. Instead of waiting until you have wrinkles to inject artificial goop into your face, you can do it early so your face never develops character…

The AAFPRS, whose website features sultry male and female 20-somethings giving you that look, calls prejuvenation “a hot new term that refers to when smart young women start non-invasive beauty treatments like Botox and chemical peels earlier in order to prevent aging — rather than correct it.” But putting plastic into your face doesn’t prevent or correct aging. It just makes you look like something you aren’t.

Or worse, something you are, with a face that doesn’t express meaningful inner states you don’t have. It’s like something out of Logan’s Run or Brave New World, people shallowly obsessed with having artificially perfect, entirely personality-less faces while living artificially perfect, entirely personality-less lives.

Follow the link below for encouragement from Adam Ford
It’s a great time to be a Christian!


Post-election promises fulfilled…
Non Sequitur – Click image for a larger view.


Luke 1:39-56

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 1:39-56
39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[a] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
When you read Mary’s Song, where do you see yourself?
1. The proud (v. 51), the mighty (v. 52), the rich (v. 53)?
2. The fearful (v. 50), the humble (v. 52), the hungry (v. 53)?
Reminder: $34,000/year puts you in the world’s wealthiest 1%.
So, are you rich, or hungry? (v. 53)
Why do you think I chose Mary?
Could I have chosen you?
Reminder: Because of Jesus, I have chosen you.

Luke 1:26-38

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[e] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Like Zechariah, Mary questions an angel’s message.
Do you find this odd?
Mary thought her virginity would be a problem.
What did I have planned for her?
Was her virginity a problem for me?
“Nothing will be impossible with God.(v. 37)
What do I have planned for you?
Will your ________ be a problem for me?
“Do not be afraid!” (v. 30)

Present Your Bodies: Your Hands

Photo by Katy C

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  –Romans 12:1-2 ESV

I was raised in the Restoration Movement “non-denomination.” Raising hands in worship wasn’t something I remember ever seeing until I was in my 20’s. I’m not exactly sure why, but I sort of got the idea that it was something we didn’t do. I think maybe it was considered sort of showy, or something. The thing is, scripture has a lot to say about lifting our hands in worship.

Look at your hands for a moment. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

They really are an amazing piece of engineering, aren’t they?

Who gave us these hands? Well, of course, God did.

What kinds of things do we do with our hands? Well, we work with our hands. We feed ourselves. We play. We give gifts. We receive gifts. We show affection.

We also fight with our hands. We sin with our hands.

I suppose it should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that a huge part of “presenting our hands” has to do with using them in positive ways. For helping, and not hurting. For reaching out, and not holding back. For bringing honor to God and his people, and not dishonor.

But, since our hands are so useful, and so expressive, why is it that so many of us are hesitant to worship with our hands?

Lifting our hands to God is biblical. It’s a physical demonstration of a spiritual truth. By lifting our hands to Him, we are presenting our bodies to God as a spiritual act of worship.

Yes, it’s true that expressing worship begins on the inside, with a mind and heart transformed by God. Ultimately, it is the posture of our hearts that makes the difference. In John 4:23 Jesus says that the Father is looking for worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. God wants honesty, not showmanship. It is possible to have your hands raised on the outside but to have your fists clenched in defiance on the inside.

The condition of our hearts is what truly matters. Paul says that we should “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” But, on the other side of the same coin, if your heart and mind have been transformed…if, indeed you are kneeling on the inside…if, deep in your spirit, your will is surrendered to God…then, why not demonstrate that physically?

Worship shouldn’t remain on the inside. It’s got to come out.

There are several images that come to my mind when I think of lifted hands:

-A small child running to her dad.
-An enemy, or an outlaw surrendering to an authority.
-A person volunteering for something.

Any, or all of these, and others, may be appropriate at different times. In any case, when you worship privately, or when we come together, I encourage you to offer your hands as a living sacrifice to God.

If you’re new to lifting your hands in worship, and you feel a little uncomfortable, I have a little exercise I’d like to suggest. It doesn’t involve anything dramatic and showy, but it does involve your hands.

About eight years ago, I participated in a worship time, led by Buddy Owens, where he led us in this time of prayer. He said it was something he borrowed from the Quakers. Since then, I’ve led it myself several times in a few different settings. You could do this in your own private devotional time, or at church during communion time, or other quiet time.

Begin by extending your hands in front of you with your palms up. Imagine your burdens and requests in your hands as you present them to God. Maybe there is a specific sin there that you need to confess.

Keep your palms up as you pray something like this:

“Father, thank you for your kindness and the gift of life. Thank you for your love and faithfulness. Thank you for accepting me as I am, and for doing the continuing work of transforming me into the likeness of Christ. I’m offering myself to you right now, body, soul and spirit. I give you my strengths and my weaknesses, my successes and my failures, my hopes and fears, my dreams and nightmares, my joys and my burdens.”

Now turn your palms down and pray something like this:

“Now, by faith, I’m obeying your command to cast all my cares on you. I release them all to you and trust that you’ll do with them as you see fit. May your will be done in me today.”

It may take a few minutes for you to actually let go of this stuff, but when you do turn your palms up again and pray something like this:

“Father, now I’m open to receive all that your grace has in store for me: strength for my weakness, peace for my fear, forgiveness for my sins, and grace to forgive those who have done me harm. Guide my steps, direct my thoughts, and protect me from the evil one. Let me be an extension of your love and mercy to the people I meet today, and I look to you to meet all my needs. I’m yours, Lord, use me to bring you glory.”

Remember, the specific words are only suggestions. God is not impressed with our language skills, but he does want our honesty.

Try it. I think you’ll find it meaningful.



I owe these thoughts to Buddy Owens and his little book called The Way of a Worshiper, which I heartily recommend.




Tuesday Picks ~ 11-29-2016


This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Man, this article conjured up some memories I’d just as soon forget. But this is great advice for worship leaders…

Growing In Your UnflappabilityJamie Brown
One of the truest truths of worship leading is that you never know what’s going to happen on a Sunday morning. You can prepare, plan, rehearse, and practice until you’re blue in the face, but when Sunday morning comes, literally anything could happen…

It’s hard not to get completely sidetracked, distracted, worked up, and even a little bit angry or annoyed…

But I’ve found that the best way to grow in becoming more unflappable on Sundays is simply to put your money where your theology is…

Don’t leave the label, leave the baggage…

On Leaving EvangelicalismBarnabas Piper
http://theblazingcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/pexels-photo-4-1700x1093.jpgTo distance yourself from a label is to distance yourself from the baggage it carries, sure. But it is also to distance yourself from the history it carries, the values it carries, and the theology it represents. Evangelicalism has a complex past and present, loaded with richness and putridity. I understand the desire to remove one’s self from the latter, but not the former. To say “I am not an evangelical” while still retaining as much of the richness as possible s like a child disliking her name and saying “call me Rainbow.” Her name has not changed nor has her family. She is simply trying to distance herself from a reality she cannot change.

If we disapprove of what a label stands for we only have two options. Leave it behind entirely along with its circle of influence and imprint. Or seek to better represent it so that when people meet us their perception my change by a degree or two. If the label stands for good things at its core then it is worth doing the latter.

5 Things The Decline of Radio and TV Can Tell Us About the Future of the ChurchCarey Nieuwhof
future of radioIn all of human history, people have never had access to more information than they do today. But somewhere in the midst of it, meaning has been lost.

The crisis our culture is facing is not a crisis of information. It’s a crisis of meaning.

This is perhaps one of the greatest opportunities for the church in history. No one should be better at providing meaning, hope and perspective.

I don’t mean jumping on Facebook and offering your half-formed opinion on politics, supreme court decisions and anything else you want to rant about. That just adds to the noise and detracts from the Gospel.

I mean sharing intelligent, honest, transparent, soul-nourishing, grace and truth that springs from and points to the source of all wisdom—Jesus Christ.

The Gospel satisfies the deepest needs of the human heart and mind for meaning. And no one should be better at proffering meaning into a culture so desperately in need of it than the church.

Sometimes I think life is hard, but I’ve never had to pump gas without arms. Have you?

Stress test…

Luke 1:1-25

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

I finished Deuteronomy yesterday and, with the approaching Christmas season, decided to start one of the Gospels. I opted for Luke simply because it contains what is arguably the best known account of Christ’s birth.

Luke 1:1-25
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,[a] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Try to imagine what it would be like to see an angel in person.
You can’t really do it, can you?
Would you be afraid?
Consider: Zechariah is talking to an angel, yet he asks, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.
Zechariah thought maybe his age would be a problem.
What problems do you have for me?
“Do not be afraid!” (v. 13)